The life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford is an impressive example of perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible adversity. She bore the loss of loved ones with grace and faith, and she continued faithful throughout a long life in Utah’s settlement years.
Elizabeth was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, on August 5, 1826, the first of eleven children. Her parents were Edward and Alice Houghton Horrocks. As was the custom among struggling families of the day, she went to work as a child, laboring in a silk factory at age seven. Her parents were Wesleyan Methodists, but in about 1840 they heard the teachings of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and joined the faith. She followed their example in 1841 at age fifteen. Both parents died at a fairly young age: her mother in England in 1856 at age fifty-three and her father near Ogden, Utah, in 1865 at age fifty-nine.
In 1848 Elizabeth married Aaron Jackson, who also had joined the Church. In the following years they had three children: Martha Ann (1849–1914), Mary Elizabeth (1851–1933), and Aaron (1854–1935). Desiring to join other members of the Church in the United States, the young family sailed across the Atlantic in 1856 and then joined the Edward Martin Handcart Company.
Elizabeth’s reminiscence of the handcart trek, including the trials and terrible privations suffered by the Martin company, has proven to be a treasure trove of information for all who study that tragic incident in Latter-day Saint history. At one of the lowest points of the journey, her husband died of mountain fever, exacerbated by starvation, fatigue, and exposure, leaving her a widow with three children. With other survivors of the Martin and Willie handcart companies, she rejoiced when rescuers came from Salt Lake City.
Several months after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Elizabeth married William R. Kingsford, who also had been widowed. They settled in Ogden, Utah, where she became a successful businesswoman. She also became active in the Relief Society and served in the Logan Temple. She had no children by her second husband, and was widowed again in 1898. She died in October 1908 at the age of eighty-two. Her life story, much of which is reproduced below, was read at her funeral service.1
1. “Leaves from the Life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford: Handcart Pioneer of 1856,” Typescript, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; printed as Leaves from the Life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford: Handcart Pioneer of 1856 (Ogden, UT: n.p., 1908).